How Do You Let Go?

I was seventeen and a half years old when I found out I was pregnant. There was no question as to whether or not I would have the baby. Over the months I watched my tummy slowly swell, and I felt the bumps and kicks as my baby grew. She would stretch her arms out and I would be able to see two little nubs, one on each side of my belly; a position that is still one of her favorites while sleeping.

At 32 weeks I went into labor. I had back labor pains that were horrific, but  only tightening of my abdomen, no painful contractions.  Needless to say I thought I was having Braxton Hicks, and thought nothing more of it until I lost my mucus plug. At that moment I began hyperventilating and panicking: it was too soon. We rushed to the doctor's where I received a shot of Terbutaline, and was told to go to the hospital. My contractions didn't stop, so I was given more Terbutaline and a shot of steroids in the buttocks to help mature my daughter's tiny lungs.  When the Terbutaline still didn't work, I was eventually put on a drip of magnesium sulfate.

Day two of magnesium sulfate treatment showed progress in the hastening of my labor, but it caused my system to slow down, so much so that my digestive tract stopped all together and I vomited at least a day's worth of food. I also lost my reflexes, and my vision was extremely blurry. During this time I mostly slept as I felt so lethargic. The nurses came in at regular intervals and took my blood to ensure that there was no cause for concern with my treatment. At this point I was up to 4 grams of the magnesium sulfate, but my water hadn't broken, so a delayed birth was preferred.

I was sent home on day three with an order for bed rest until delivery. My daughter was able to grow for another three weeks until she demanded, again, to be let out into the world.

At the hospital I labored for 3 1/2 hours and three pushes. My daughter's head was barely out of my body before she gurgled her first cry.  At 36 weeks, she was perfect.

I was a young mom, but I was a good mom. I loved my daughter deeply and took her on all kinds of adventures; museums, play dates, walks, etc. When she was sick I stayed up worrying, when she learned new thing, I reveled in my pride for her.

Eventually I married my daughter's father, but maritally things didn't work out. By the time my daughter was 3, we lived a part, he had a pregnant girlfriend, and my daughter and I had begun a new life together with our new circumstances.

My daughter gained a baby brother at 3 1/2, and rebelled out against me because of all of the changes in her life. Her father and I , with his new family, shared custody of her, so my daughter went between homes 2-3 times a week. It was hard on her, and boy did she let me know it!

I was a nanny during weekday mornings, a job which I could bring my daughter to. I home-schooled her during the day, then worked as a waitress on the nights she was with her father. During this time, I still took her on many adventures, including her first trip to Disneyland at age five. I had made plans with a friend to travel down to L.A. and stay with her uncle, then we'd all go to Disneyland. My friend had already canceled on me once, so when she canceled on me again, I thought about how I had told my daughter that we would be going right when I picked her up from Daddy's, and decided screw it! We're going!

I picked my daughter up in the wee hours of the morning and we drove all the way to San Diego, visited the cemetery where my mom is buried, then went to the zoo. I contacted a great aunt of mine whom I had only met once, and she allowed us to stay the night at her house instead of in my Honda. The next morning we went to Disneyland at opening and stayed until closing, then hit the road for the long drive home. I had to stop a few times to sleep, as I was beat, but we made it home by 10 a.m. the next morning with memories of a good time.

We plugged along for a couple of years before I met my husband. At first it was a long distance relationship as he was out of state finishing his time in the Marine Corps. My daughter wrote him letters and was excited at having a step-dad. She loved him from the start, which was a welcome relief. I was concerned that she wouldn't like him, that she would be jealous of my relationship with him, or that she would just have  a hard time with another change. But luckily for me, they bonded well, and my daughter loved to spend time with him.

By 7 1/2 years of age, my daughter had another sibling on her dad's side, and a new sister from my husband and I. This was a difficult transition for my daughter, not only because of  a new baby at Daddy's, but also because now she had to share Mommy. It had been her and I for so long, and now there was someone new. But my daughter loved her sister and was fiercely protective. Don't get me wrong, we had some rough patches, but we survived.

At 10 we moved from our home of 7 years to a new one an hour and half away. This was not only a huge change in my daughter's life, but it also added distance which made time with her father difficult. So now instead of going back and forth all the time, my daughter rarely saw her father.

Because of the years of going between homes, and all of the changes in her life, my daughter took it out on me consistently. I was her one safe place, and I dealt with the abuse as best as I could. Our relationship came to a head within the first few months in our new home, so much so that I was resentful and guilty. I made a hard decision and chose to have my daughter live with her father. This allowed me some distance from my feelings, which, in turn, allowed me to heal. I drove an hour every Friday to pick her up from school, then half an hour on Sundays to meet for an exchange to bring her back. One school year later, I brought my daughter back home with me.

Our relationship was so much better from here on out. My daughter still acted out on occasion, but it wasn't the constant rebellion I had known before. She had emotional highs and lows as do all teenagers, but again we made it through. We made it through another sibling, we made it through a serious boyfriend and all that entails (well okay, not all...THANK GOD!) and we made it through driver's training, high school, cosmetology school, and state board licensing, which she allowed me to be her model for. We made it through 18 years of love, laughter, and tears. We made it.

So now I sit here reflecting back on my life with my eldest daughter, and the journey we took together. She left this afternoon to begin a new chapter in her life; one that doesn't have room for a full time mom. Instead, she will just need an occasional "How do I do this," or "Let me tell you what happened." No more talks before bed, just occasional phone calls that will dwindle over time. No more daily hugs, now only once or twice a year if I'm lucky.

My job as a mom has now become a full time job of worrying if I taught her enough, or if I screwed her up too badly.Will she be safe? What if something happens? I won't be there fast enough. Now I'll have a full time of heartache over the empty room, and my empty arms, and sadness every time we do family outings because a part of my family won't be there.

People say that the pain will diminish over time, and I know it will. And no I don't want her chained at home for the rest of her life, so I cognitively know it's time for her to move on. But I love my daughter deeply and it is a change I don't think I could have ever been ready for emotionally. Her graduation from high school was really difficult for me. Then she turned 18, and that was hard too. But now the reality of the end of my daughter's childhood has hit...hard.

So how do I let go? I don't. I hold on to my memories, my pictures, my worries, my heartache, my hope, and my love. I hold it tight and wait for the day when I can squeeze my baby for a couple of minutes once again.

I love my daughter deeply, and I will never let that go.